Our sulfite free wine Semper Viva often raises questions: what does “sulfite free” mean? What is special about sulfite free wine? Does it taste different? Is sulphur bad for one’s health? We’ve written this article to answer these frequently asked questions about no-sulphur wine.
Sulphur: a natural component in wine
All wines contain sulphur dioxide in various forms, described under the general term of sulfites. As much as 10mg/litre of sulfites can be found even in wine made without the addition of sulphur, as during the vinification process, at the fermentation stage, the yeasts produce sulphur naturally. For this reason, the commonly-used term when referring to no-sulphur wines is sans soufre ajouté (no added sulphur).
What does sulphur do, and why is it added to wine?
Sulphur dioxyde is the most commonly-used additive in wine making. Years ago no-one was concerned about the presence of sulphur in wine but today there is a veritable divide between the pro- and anti-sulphur schools of thought.
Sulphur is an antioxydant which slows down the oxydation of wine. It serves as a kind of preservative and is also an antimicrobial. Sulphur is used to inhibit or kill certain undesirable bacteria or yeasts which could creat organoleptic faults in wine. Note however that sulphur dioxyde is NOT the yellow powdery sulphur which is sprayed on the vines to prevent diseases such as powdery mildew.
There are four occasions when sulphur is used:
- During harvest
- During fermentation
- During the rack and return process
- During bottling, in order to preserve and stabilise the wine.
Is sulphur harmful?
Using sulphur is not harmful in itself, otherwise it would not be allowed. However permitted quantities are limited for two reasons:
- Some people are sulphur-intolerant or have sulphur allergies (bad headaches, red marks on the skin)
- Used in excess, sulphur can have a negative effect on the aromas of the wine, hindering the expression of the grape variety and terroir.
So what is wine without added sulphur?
As its name suggests, wine without added sulphur has never had sulphur added to it at any stage of the vinification process.
Making no-sulphur wine requires constant attention: when the results are successful, the wine is pure, authentic and fruit-forward, like Semper Viva. The grape variety and terroir are clearly expressed, however the wine is less well protected. To enjoy it as its best, it should be stored carefully, preferably in a cool place (around 16-18° C). When transporting sulphite free wine, care should be taken to avoid extreme temperatures and the wine should be left to rest a little before opening. If you’re a fan of sulfite free wines or if you’re simply curious to taste this kind of wine, do try our Semper Viva!